Brendan Smith praises ‘brave’ frontline efforts and urges Minister to improve vaccine rollout

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Brendan Smith has praised the tireless and brave work of front-line workers throughout the pandemic but has also stressed the huge importance of getting the vaccine rollout programme right. 

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “Frontline workers continue to do a marvellous job in what are still difficult circumstances. I compliment all our front-line workers and all workers providing different services for us through challenging times.  

“I highlight again the particular role of our healthcare workers. They have spent a difficult year dealing with a deadly virus. We all know they have been working in highly challenging circumstances, oftentimes with a reduced staff complement because of colleagues being out sick, etc.” 

Deputy Smith also addressed the ongoing rollout and the issues that have presented themselves in recent weeks. 

“Some practices have not yet received their vaccines for those aged over 85. I appeal to the Minister for Health to insist to the HSE that these practices get the vaccines this week. I believe it is only a small number. I have also heard from constituents who are concerned that they have not yet been called for the vaccine because the GP practice has not yet received it.” 

On the issue of the placing of different groups of people into certain cohorts, Deputy Smith feels An Garda Síochána members need to be reviewed in this regard. 

“I am amazed that members of An Garda Síochána have not been given a higher prioritisation in the roll-out of the vaccination programme. Along with other front-line workers, members of the force have done exceptionally good work over the past 12 months in dealing with this pandemic. I appeal to the Minister and whomever makes the recommendation to review the placing of An Garda Síochána in the particular category.” 

Deputy Smith also called on the Minister to improve internal communications with the HSE for GPs across the country, to help aid a swifter and more effective rollout. 

“I know from speaking with GPs that there was utter frustration at times with making calls and calls not being returned. Those who called never got to speak to the same person a second time.  

“When there is a dedicated helpline, there should be identified officials to deal with particular counties. If a general practitioner from Cavan rings, that GP should be able to talk to a small team of people rather than someone with whom he or she has not spoken previously or someone who claims to have no knowledge of the particular queries.” 

The Cavan/Monaghan TD added: “I spoke to a GP in a small practice who was starting to make calls to some patients to whom he had arranged to administer vaccines tomorrow. Unfortunately, he does not have enough vaccine to administer to all of them. That is a source of great disappointment for those people. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that such administrative difficulties are resolved.” 

ENDS 

Need to review proposed North South Interconnector – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fail TD Brendan Smith has again called on the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications to carry out a proper review of the proposed North South Interconnector.  He added that Minister Ryan’s response to him in Dáil Éireann recently that the option of under-grounding the North South Interconnector has been comprehensively assessed is far from adequate.

“The previous government did not carry out the comprehensive assessment in relation to the option of under-grounding the transmission cables as requested through motions in Dáil and Seanad Éireann in February 2017.  The comprehensive assessment as requested by those motions should now be ordered by Minister Ryan.

There has been a clear and consistent message from communities North and South that if this project is to proceed it needs to have buy in from communities and local landowners.   None of us are against the further development of an all island electricity market.  If this project is to proceed the transmission lines should be put underground and I have emphasised that clearly in Dáil Éireann on numerous occasions.

Through further Parliamentary Questions I outlined clearly to Minister Ryan the need for his Department and Eirgrid to listen to local communities in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath who need to have their concerns addressed and their rights respected.

Modern technology is available to enable the transmission cables to be put underground which is happening in other parts of Europe.  Departments and statutory agencies should follow proper procedures and the underground alternative to the present proposal has never been given an objective analysis by Eirgrid or the Department.  The under-grounding option must be properly examined and the concerns of local communities must not be dismissed.  This is the clear message that I have once again outlined to Minister Ryan and his Department”, stated Brendan Smith T.D.

Copy of reply by Minister Ryan to Parliamentary Question I tabled in Dáil Éireann following a motion passed by Monaghan County Council.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 03/03/2021
Question Number(s): 95 Question Reference(s): 12158/21
Department: Environment, Climate and Communications
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


[Ref No.: 12158/21]

*  To ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will have issues raised by a local authority given urgent consideration in view of the widespread concerns in local communities in relation to the proposed north-south interconnector (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith.

Dear Minister/Deputy/Senator,

At the February Council meeting the following resolutions were passed by the Council and I was directed to forward same to you for attention. 1. That this Council notes with deep concern the excessive spending of taxpayers money by Eirgrid on advertising as exposed at the Public Accounts Committee and that we write to Minister Eamonn Ryan, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Eirgrid & the Oireachtas members for this constituency requesting a response on this issue. 2. That this Council notes with deep concern no change in policy from Minister Ryan – Eirgrid – or Government in relation to the undergrounding of the North South interconnector. That this Council further notes that Government – Minister Ryan – & Eirgrid are in breach of Government policy – Re Community acceptance (Government policy 2012) – in relation to infrastructure such as electricity infrastructure etc. That we write to Minister Ryan – An Taoiseach Michael Martin & the Oireachtas members for this constituency requesting a response to this motion I would be grateful if you would consider the resolutions outlined above and let me have a reply for the Council members in due course.

*    For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 3rd March, 2021.

(1667  Received on 25th February, 2021.)

REPLY


EirGrid as a commercial state company is accountable to the independent energy regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, under the Price Review process for all expenditure, including advertising, that it incurs in the discharge of its responsibilities.

The North-South Interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the all-island single electricity market and increasing security of electricity supply in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It will also help Ireland to move towards 70% renewable electricity, a commitment made in the Programme for Government. A resilient and well-connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland’s economic well-being and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers. 

The 2012 Government Policy Statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and Other Energy Infrastructure  states: ‘The Government does not seek to direct EirGrid and ESB Networks or other energy infrastructure developers to particular sites or routes or technologies’. 

The option of undergrounding the North-South Interconnector has been comprehensively assessed on several occasions.  Most recently, and fully in line with the resolution of Dáil Éireann of 16 February 2017, my Department commissioned an independent report incorporating international industry expertise to examine the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the north-south interconnector. The report from the International Expert Commission was published in October 2018 and it found that an overhead line remains the most appropriate option for this piece of critical electricity infrastructure. I do not intend ordering a further such review.

The Government takes the commitment to community engagement seriously. EirGrid and ESB Networks seek to work in close collaboration with landowners and stakeholders in the delivery of electricity infrastructure. Both companies are engaging with those living closest to the route of the interconnector. In that regard I note that EirGrid has already set in place a variety of engagements locally, including the appointment of community liaison officers and a mobile information unit active in the area. I expect such engagements to intensify in the coming weeks and months, subject of course to national public health guidelines on Covid-19.

Additional permanent accommodation approved for Bailieborough Community School – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD welcomes the decision by his colleague, Norma Foley TD, to approve the provision of additional permanent accommodation at Bailieborough Community School

The additional accommodation will consist of 4x General classroom, 4x SET rooms, 1x Music room, 1x Textiles room, 1x Art room,1x Art Project store, 1x Science lab,1X Library, 1x GP/Dining. This is in addition to the accommodation that was approved by Minister Foley last September.

This is very welcome news for Bailieborough Community School, the Board of Management, The Parents’ Association and the wider school community.

8/03/2021

Over €27 million approved to Cavan/Monaghan under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith welcomes the announcement by his colleague Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien TD of funding of  €14.49 million for Abbeylands Regeneration Project Cavan Town and €13.11 million for Dublin Street Monaghan Town Regeneration Project.

“This major State investment in the Abbeylands Project will enhance considerably the infrastructure in the centre of Cavan Town, our county town.  This project includes the provision of a remote working centre, community and cultural facilities and open spaces and will be a great boost to the Town Centre.

In these very difficult times it is heartening to have such major projects given the go ahead with very substantial state funding.  Investment in our town centres is long overdue and these projects will be welcomed by local communities.

I compliment both Cavan and Monaghan County Councils on their initiatives and work in progressing both projects to this stage.  I am very glad to have supported both applications and I appreciate Minister O’Brien’s support for these regeneration projects”, stated Deputy Brendan Smith.

Brendan Smith: Once again vulnerable people will suffer due to bank branch closures

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has slammed the decisions of Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland to close branches in towns across his constituency, adding that “once again, it is vulnerable people who will suffer”. 

Speaking this week, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “The Financial Services Union made the very strong point that the Bank of Ireland decision will result in the removal of vital services from elderly people, those with no Internet access, those who lack confidence in doing business online, and people with literacy and numeracy problems. The decision is a hammer blow to staff, customers and communities.” 

The announcement by the Bank of Ireland on Monday last will result in the closure of branches in Arvagh, Cootehill, Kingscourt, Clones and Castleblayney. 

“It is deplorable that the Bank of Ireland is making this decision during a pandemic when, of necessity, there has been a dramatic reduction in footfall in our towns and villages and, understandably, fewer people attending branches owing to public health guidelines.” 

Deputy Smith added: “This means a further dramatic reduction in banking competition and shows no regard for staff and local communities that have been loyal to the Bank of Ireland over many decades.” 

The Cavan-Monaghan TD also spoke about the impact on the border region of the decision by NatWest to exit the Irish market and close its Ulster Bank operation here. 

“The Border region has had a strong presence of Ulster Bank over many years. The recent decision will result in the closure of branches in Ballyconnell, Ballyjamesduff and Cavan town and in Monaghan town, which are four branches in my constituency.  

“This followed on from the bank exiting towns such as Belturbet, Killeshandra, Kilnaleck, Swanlinbar, Clones and Castleblyaney in 2013-2014 and Arvagh and Cootehill in 2017. This shows the dramatic change in the landscape of Ulster Bank services over the past number of years. In a number of months, there will be no branches or presence in many of those towns. It is a dramatic change, and for the worse, unfortunately”. 

Looking to the future, and a post-Covid world, Deputy Smith said these banking decisions will deprive “communities of a necessary banking service”.  

He stated: “When the Covid crisis is over, we all hope there will be an opportunity to create more jobs in rural Ireland through people being afforded the opportunity to work from home and from digital hubs. However, at the same time that we are encouraging private employers and the public service to give opportunities for employment in smaller towns and villages in rural Ireland, major institutions are exiting those towns and villages and depriving communities of a necessary banking service.” 

END

Please see attached comments from Deputy Brendan Smith made in Dáil Eireann debate.

Funding for Greenways/Walkways

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith welcomes the allocation of government funding towards greenway and walkway developments.

Projects to benefit in Cavan and Monaghan, with grant aid of €600,000 include –

Cavan Way re-routing near the Shannon Pot

Development of Dromore Greenway Cootehill

Walking trail from Lough na Glack

Ballybay Trail/Path Networks

“This government funding will support the work of local community groups and Cavan and Monaghan County Councils in developing worthwhile  recreational amenities which will benefit local residents and visitors to the region” stated Brendan Smith TD

4thMarch 2021

Brendan Smith welcomes over €2.8m in Cavan and Monaghan housing improvements funding

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has welcomed funding of €1,519,168 for Cavan and €1,286,225 for Monaghan to improve homes of older people and people with a disability. 

The fund, which supports home adaptations for older people, those with a disability and people with mobility issues, is 80% exchequer funding through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, with 20% funding from the local authority. 

Grants of up to €30,000 are available to assist people with a disability in carrying out necessary works to make a house more suitable for their needs, up to €8,000 to assist older people to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out and up to €6,000 for mobility aids.  

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “I welcome this great news. There is always such a huge demand on these grants. It can be lifechanging for a person to get their home adapted to facilitate their needs.  

“It is really important so that our citizens get the help they need to live safely in their own homes.” 

Commenting, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said, “I am delighted to be in a position to allocate increased funding to each local authority so that they can continue to support older people and those with a disability to live independently. 

“Importantly, home adaptations help reduce the dependency on our health services by supporting independent living for as long as possible and in other instances facilitate an early return from hospital, taking pressure off already over-burdened services.  

“These grants will also provide a boost to local economies, creating employment opportunities for local contractors. While the current shutdown in construction activity remains in place, it is very important that people are aware that housing adaptation works can continue with the consent of the homeowner and once public health guidelines are adhered to,” he concluded. 

END 

ADDITIONAL TEACHING APPOINTMENTS FOR TEAGASC – BRENDAN SMITH TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD, Brendan Smith has welcomed the confirmation by Teagasc that they have now received approval for the appointment of 20 two-year contract teachers.  He added that this will enable the creation of more ‘Green Cert’ places right away.

“I had raised with the Department and with the Director of Teagasc the need to make these additional appointments in view of delays that have been occurring in people getting places on courses.  These new appointments will enable the provision of additional courses to deal with a strong demand for placements such as Ballyhaise Agricultural College” stated Brendan Smith TD.

Brendan Smith calls for increased engagement with Biden Administration on Undocumented in US

Pictured above Senator Billy Lawless and Brendan Smith TD meeting with Congressman Brendan Boyle in December 2019

Fianna Fáil Deputy and Co-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly Brendan Smith has called on the Government to increase its engagement with the new Biden Administration in the US to ensure further protections for the Undocumented in the United States.  

Speaking this week, US congressman Brendan Boyle, who has family roots in Donegal, said that Irish immigration was in decline there and that the US Government needed to restore a legal framework whereby Irish emigrants can enter the US successfully.  

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “I welcome Brendan Boyle’s continued support and I have asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will have discussions at an early date with the United States administration in relation to the need for immigration reform with particular reference to the undocumented Irish following the referral by President Biden of the US Citizenship Act to Congress.”  

Deputy Smith: “I welcome Minister Coveney’s commitment to continue to pursue the E3 Visa Bill option which, if passed, could provide access to thousands of US visas each year to Irish citizens. 

“Urgency must be attached to this important issue with the new Administration and new Congress in place. 

“The links between Ireland and the US have always been strong and our diaspora play a key role in maintaining relationships.  It is vitally important that these connections are supported into the future.”  

Allocations for Cavan and Monaghan for Non National Roads – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has welcomed the allocation of €15.5 Million for Cavan County Council and €16 Million to Monaghan County Council for the Non National Roads Network Programme for 2021.

This funding will enable improvement works to be carried out throughout all of both counties and there are some specific grant allocations including bridge repairs, specific safety works and an allocation of €130,000 towards the East/West Road.  This will enable further preparatory work to be carried out on this much needed project.

Major investment is needed in our road network in both Cavan and Monaghan as the condition of many roads in both counties had deteriorated in recent years.

I have continuously highlighted this important issue to successive Transport Ministers and below is a Dáil reply of last week.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 11/02/2021
Question Number(s): 55 Question Reference(s): 7843/21
Department: Transport
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Transport when he plans to make the allocations to local authorities in respect of the 2021 non-national roads programme; if he will ensure a substantial increase in the allocations to Cavan and Monaghan county councils in view of the particular importance of the road network in both counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities’ own resources supplemented by State road grants.

Following the publication of the Revised Estimates Volume (REV), the allocation for regional and local roads in 2021 is €555 million approximately – €46m Current and €509m Capital.

My objective will be to allocate funding to eligible local authorities on as equitable a basis as possible taking the length of the road network and traffic factors into account.  The main focus of the grants will continue to be maintenance and renewal of the regional and local road network.

Grant allocations for 2021 are being notified to local authorities this week.